Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Start a Garden!

If you have children, I wholeheartedly recommend starting a garden. It's the most amazing thing to watch children move through the planting to harvesting cycle. You don't even need a very big one to have a big impact. We've recently been harvesting Brussels sprouts and artichokes. Amazingness!

There are a couple ways we fit gardening into our crazy-busy lives:
  1. Our raised beds are in our front yard, which means we are forced to pass by them and notice them every day. 
  2. We have automatic irrigation--it changes everything! Here's a kit that might work well for a raised bed.
We put so little into our garden in terms of time and effort and yet get so much out of it. I highly recommend it! 

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sticking to Your Health & Wellness Goals

The other day I started getting antsy about not growing enough as an individual. I started wondering, "How come I'm not making more time to read self-help books? How come I'm not setting specific growth goals for myself?" 

I indulged that line of thinking for about two seconds and then remembered that 2016 is my year of "Health & Wellness." Specifically, I am focused on sustaining an exercise routine and focusing on healthy eating. 

And I've been doing it! Despite working full-time and trying to be a good wife/mother/friend, I manage to run twice a week and go to yoga once a week. And it feels great. 

The key for me has been:
  • Being really clear about what I want to accomplish. I knew that I wanted to run twice a week and go to yoga once a week. I also knew that I wanted to lose a couple pounds (and then maintain my weight). 
  • Identifying the exact habits that I would need to implement in order to achieve my goal. I knew that we would need to eat healthy meals at home at least five times a week. I knew that I would need to run and do yoga.
  • Setting exact days and times to implement my habits. I looked at my calendar and picked specific days and times when I would exercise. That makes it a lot harder to make excuses!
  • Tracking my results. In the beginning--when I was trying to form new habits--I religiously tracked my results. I put a little notebook in my bathroom (with a pen) so that it would be really easy to weigh myself and record the results. I also put checks for each time I ran or did yoga. I even used the Pact app to motivate me. 
Now that my habits are firmly in place, I actually don't track my results anymore. But it was helpful in the beginning. 

The real trick to changing your habits is to figure out yourself. Gretchen Rubin's quiz for understanding how to build your own self-discipline can be helpful. Once you know how to change your own habits in pursuit of a goal, anything is possible in your life!

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Monday, April 25, 2016

A Bike-Riding Four Year-Old

We're a big fan of the balance bike around here. Tate has now inherited Henry's balance bike and is so confident on it all around the neighborhood. Henry has been riding a pedal bike without training wheels since about turning four. We hit a milestone several months ago: I was able to take him to the lake trail and he rode for three miles while I jogged. It's taken me a while to write this post. Henry is now five!

Although it's a little less relaxing on my weekend run if Henry comes along, it's an amazing opportunity to teach him so many skills. He develops his gross motor skills while also learning how to pass people and how to stay to the right on the trail.

So fun!

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Delicious Chocolate Smoothie Recipe

While the Henry and I were making our favorite healthy pancake recipe, Tate was doing a little food preparation. Children can start with basic preparation around 18 months-old. If you're wondering where to start, I recommend the book that Kylie from How We Montessori and I produced together called Kids in the Kitchen: Simple Recipes that Build Independence and Confidence the Montessori Way. It has step-by-step directions about how to set up the kitchen to support children, how to introduce basic skills to them, resources for where to buy child-sized supplies, and simple recipes that support children to cook independently. Henry and I make the bread recipe nearly every single week. It's so simple and delicious!

Tate was cutting bananas and arranging them on a plate for us to freeze, so that we could make my new favorite healthy chocolate smoothie recipe.

All of my new favorite healthy eating recipes come from this book.


  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 T chia seeds
  • 2 soft Medjool dates, pitted (or 1 T of maple syrup)
  • 2 T raw cacao powder or cocoa powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/4 t vanilla extract
  • ice

  1. Combine the almond milk, chia seeds, and dates in a high-speed blender.
  2. Add the cacao powder, banana, vanilla, and ice cubes and blend again. 

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Volunteering as a Family

One of our goals this year was to do at least two volunteer activities as a family. Fortunately, in Austin, there's a non-profit organization that makes this kind of goal relatively easy for us. Little Helping Hands publishes a calendar every month of new volunteer activities and experiences. The problem is that the calendar fills up very fast. 

So far, we've been able to sign up for two of them: volunteering at a homeless shelter to make a meal and--most recently--doing arts and crafts at a home for senior citizens.  

Visiting the senior living center was a wonderful experience for so many reasons. First, it pushed all of us out of our comfort zones. Henry and Tate were initially shy, and Matt and I were insecure about the best way to interact with the residents, some of whom were totally unresponsive. We ended up having a wonderful time helping them make little art projects. Tate even independently served water to a couple residents who were very appreciative. 

I was also so grateful to have such an inter-generational experience. It was wonderful and grounding to see the range of human experience from 3 to 93. 

I highly recommend this kind of experience for families with young children who are interested in volunteering. I bet you could even call your local center and ask them if you could stop by during some of the planned activity times just to interact with people.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

The Importance of Routines for a Healthy, Happy Family

We started going to counseling to help support Henry with his self-regulation, and the first thing the therapist wanted to know about was our routines. 

I didn't realize our life was so routinized until I started explaining it! 
  • The boys wake up around 6:45am. We lay together for a few minutes and then I start getting ready for work. 
  • Matt takes care of getting the boys ready in the morning (she was pleased that he was a really active and involved father) while I head to work. I do a connection ritual with the boys before I leave.
  • I pick up the boys around 4:30, and we are home by 4:45. Since I prep most of our meal ingredients on Sunday, it only takes me about 15 minutes to have dinner on the table. We eat, play, do bath, read, tell stories, and turn off the lights by 6:30pm. 
  • I explained that we try to give the boys wide open time to relax, play, and connect. Whenever possible, we avoid taking them on errands (like to Target). We do fun things together on the weekends, like go to the Wildflower Center. 
I'm sharing all of this because the therapist was excited to hear about how structured our life is. She explained that she usually has to coach families into putting more routines into place. She explained that this kind of structure helps children feel safe. 

Since we recently started Aikido (to help Henry work on his self-control), our Saturdays have gotten a little crazy. His Aikido class starts at 9am, so we usually try to rush to the lake so I can run for 45 minutes and the boys can go to the dog park while they wait for me. I can already feel that adding one 30-minute activity is adding unnecessary stress into our lives. 

We've done it for about a month now and it hasn't gotten less stressful. The time is just too tight and I end up feeling like I am rushing my children everywhere. When I stopped to think about it, I realized there was no reason why I absolutely had to run on Saturday. For the most part, I can run on Sunday and we can free up our Saturday morning to be more relaxed before Aikido. 

It feels pretty silly to admit that it took me a whole month to question and reorganize our routine, but it is what it is! It was a good reminder to stay reflective about our schedule and make sure that it always works for us. When it doesn't, we need to make a change! 

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Write the Story of Your Life

An awesome friend of ours came for a visit during SXSW, and he started coaching Matt around how Matt wanted to develop and grow. Matt identified photography as a way in which he would really like to develop.

I encouraged him to sign up for a class. He also started taking free portraits of our friends and even created a website.

It’s such a simple yet difficult process to identify an area in which you’d like to develop and grow and then make it happen for yourself. And yet it feels like a fundamental part of how we create awesome lives for ourselves.

I’ve come to believe over the years that this ability—the ability to set a goal for yourself and then make it happen—is a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened. I started out small: “I want to plan a birthday party that does something to make the world better.” And got bigger: “I want to save up my money and spend a year taking a self-subsidized sabbatical to travel.” And got huge: “I want to start a national organization that changes the conversation about what’s possible for schools.”

I invite you to leave a comment about what you’re hoping to create in your life next—no matter how big or small! Go ahead; have courage!

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

An Update on Our Family Goals


It’s been fun having family goals this year, and it’s been particularly helpful to keep track of them on our fridge. We recently completed a goal for the year: Go on two road trips.

We took our first road trip to Oklahoma to meet a Feeding the Soil kindred spirit for the first time.

We took our second road trip back to Dallas to visit our dear friends.

We also recently did a family volunteering activity where we went to a homeless shelter and made a meal. We’ll be doing another experience later this month where we travel to a senior living center to make crafts with the residents.

We’re making pretty steady progress together. I think the area we really need to focus on is getting our next chapter book. I’ve been terrible about taking the boys to the library. I honestly don’t have any excuse. It is literally between our school and our home (which is only a 1.9-mile commute). Actually, maybe I’ll see if Henry can borrow Little House on the Prairie from our school library!

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Book Recommendation: Siblings Without Rivalry

When we traveled to Flagstaff for Spring Break, the bickering between our boys hit an all-time high. I was at my wits-end and needed an immediate next step (that’s how I deal with stress; I figure out what my next step is to move toward alleviating the stress). So I ordered Siblings Without Rivalry from Amazon and read it on the Kindle app on my phone. (As a side note, I’m still trying to use the free library app to get Kindle books from the library, called Overdrive, but I’m having trouble getting my library pin to work during log-in).

First and foremost, read the book if you only want to have one child and would like additional justification that you are making the right decision. Seriously, the whole first part of it explains what is at the heart of sibling rivalry: children fee like they are competing for love.

The authors even go so far to say that having a sibling is like having your partner come home and say, “Honey, I love you so much that I’m going to bring home another wife/husband just like you. S/he is going to live with us and share all of your things.”

After getting over the shock that maybe I should have stuck to my original plan of having only one child, I found the strategies to be helpful and concrete.

Here were some of my favorite ones:
Instead of dismissing negative feelings about a sibling, acknowledge the feelings.

Instead of:
Child: “You’re always with the baby.”
Parent: “No I’m not. Didn’t I just read to you?”

Put the feelings into words:
Parent: “You don’t like my spending so much time with her.”

Give children in fantasy what they don’t have in reality.

Child: “Send the baby back!”
Parent: “You don’t mean that. You know you love her.”

Express what the child might wish:
Parent: “You don’t want her here. Sometimes you wish she’d go away.”

Stop hurtful behavior, show how angry feelings can be discharged safely. Refrain from attacking the attacker.

Instead of:

Parent: “That’s a nasty thing to do to the baby! She only touched your blocks.”

Show better ways to express anger:

“No punching. Tell your sister how angry you are with words, not fists.”  

Those were the first group of strategies. I’m feeling like I should stop there so I can put them into practice in the coming week!

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

New Site for Awesome Learning Experiences

I'm excited about Verlocal, curated homegrown experiences led by passionate locals. It currently features experiences in the following cities:

I love this kind of stuff. When I lived in Houston, I used to take extension courses (like knitting, screen printing, pottery, and photography). My favorite ones were hosted at people's homes. It's so intimate and connected. A great way to build community! 

I'm feeling a little too overwhelmed to try this right now, but I'm definitely going to keep it on my list of things to do!

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Benefits of Envy

I love this short video about the benefits of envy. The world we live in is full of images of other people's lives (via blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.). It can either lead to depression or inspiration. The choice is yours!

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Reflection & Rejuvenation: My Goals for April

Wow. Another month has already gone by? 

Some highlights from this month:
  • I traveled to Chicago for the American Montessori Society conference.
  • My family and I traveled to Flagstaff for Spring Break. 
  • We went on a school camping trip (just for the day) to Pedernales Falls.

Let me check in about how I did toward my goals:

Goals for This Month
  • Keep up with the salad, running, yoga, and water: Yes! I feel so proud of myself for regularly exercising. It is making a huge difference in my life.
  • Work on my daily gratitude and meditation: I'm doing okay on this goal. Could be doing better!
  • Find a graphic designer to design the cover of our first book: Oy, I still haven't done this yet. 
  • Finish the draft for my most recent book idea: Worked on it but didn't finish it.
  • Make serious forward momentum on our house projects: refinishing deck, hanging the children's art gallery, recovering the chair in the living room, finding a wall hanging for the big wall, getting more quotes for permanent deck railing. Somewhat. We found someone to refinish the deck. We did not do the art gallery or get quotes for the permanent deck railing.
  • Finalize summer plans for Henry and Tate. Yep.
  • Book my personal retreat. Oops.
  • Have an awesome Spring Break! Yep! 
Honestly,  I didn't do that great because I didn't keep these goals at the forefront of my mind. I didn't have them posted anywhere, and I didn't paste them into my action plan. 

It seems like I need to push forward on these goals before adding new ones to my docket!

2016 Family Goals
  • Take a road trip to Oklahoma: Yes!
  • Take a road trip to Dallas to see Kyla: Done!
  • Read three chapter books: I need to check out the third one from the library.
  • Read all the BOB books: Working on it....
  • Go camping: Postponed until the Fall.
  • Volunteer: Yes! And we have another volunteer experience planned.
  • Take more day trips to small Texas towns: Not yet.
  • Hang out at the creek in the summer: Too cold!  

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